Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Cauliflower cheese with brown butter and onion
One of my favourite pastimes when visiting foodie friends is rooting through their cookery books though I have to admit it's rare to find many I haven't got. But the other day I turned up one called English Country House Cooking by someone of the splendid name of Fortune Stanley. Turns out she - she is a she - wrote in the 70's and has an illustrious background according to this page on the Stanley family tree.
The recipe that caught my eye was a cauliflower cheese with onion which seemed an intriguing addition. I didn't have time to jot it down so made up this version when I got home.
Serves 3 as a light supper, 4 as a vegetable
a sprig of thyme
1 medium cauliflower
30g plain flour
150g of grated or crumbled cheese (I used half and half Gorwydd Caerphilly and Cheddar which is what I happened to have in the fridge)
Salt and white pepper
Peel and thickly slice the onion and put it in a pan with the milk and thyme. Bring to the boil and leave over a very low heat for the onion to cook but you don't want it to boil.
Meanwhile divide the cauliflower into florets and steam or boil until not quite cooked (about 7-8 minutes). Drain, saving some of the water.
Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and stir in the flour. Cook the roux over a low heat until it it begins to darken in colour and smell nutty. Then tip in the hot milk and onions all at once and stir. It should thicken pretty well immediately - if it's too thick add a splash of the reserved cooking water. Or more milk, if you prefer. Remove the thyme.
Add half the grated cheese and season to taste and tip into an ovenproof dish. Heat the grill, top with the remaining cheese and cook until the top is golden and bubbling.
The effect of the onion was quite interesting, making the cauliflower cheese milder if anything although that could have been the Gorwydd which is quite subtle and delicate. It would have been particularly good with boiled ham or indeed with some bacon or ham in it though I was trying to keep it veggie. (This blog is sometimes too meaty by half).
I didn't take the roux quite as far as I might have done in terms of browning it. I reckon I cooked it for about 3 minutes - I think I'd cook it a minute or so longer next time to get an even nuttier taste. And a little blue cheese might have been interesting. But a nice twist on a family classic.
Thankyou, Fortune, for the inspiration.
Incidentally the surface of the cauli cheese shouldn't look as crinkly if you flash it under the grill. I had to put mine in the top of the Aga which takes an age to brown things. One of the things that drives me nuts about it.